Boy oh boy oh boy
A lot just happened! Well not really. Anyway, it’s summertime and we are doing some pretty epic yard chores, and that’s been interesting. I think I have told you before about this Japanese knotweed situation out here in good ol’ New England? It’s a noxious invasive weed that looks like bamboo and grows like some alien creature sent here to overtake the planet. There’s a decorative hedge of it planted along the north side of our house. When we first looked at the house, we’d never heard of Japanese knotweed; we said ooh, how lovely, what a lovely privacy hedge! Our realtor had a look of dread on his face and just said “you gotta stay on top of this stuff or it’ll kill you.” We were like ha ha New England men with their grim approach to yard work. So we blithely bought the house and moved in and enjoyed the knotweed and then on the first super cold day of autumn we arrived home to find it razed to the ground, our house naked to the outside world. It turned out that the knotweed is actually on our neighbor’s property and he–at that time, an ancient old man named Al who is now dead–hired guys every autumn to come chop it all down and take it away. “Huh, that’s odd” we thought, but we also have learned quickly that when ancient old men who have lived in New England for their entire lives do a given chore there is zero chance they don’t know what they’re doing. THEN however, the next spring, when the knotweed popped back up and grew at an alarming rate, like half a foot a day honestly, suddenly Gary started finding knotweed all over the yard, and he researched it, and discovered that it’s in fact an extraordinarily tenacious super-weed invading our neck of the woods and destroying property wherever it goes. He unearthed some horrible story about a New England guy whose yard was so overtaken by the knotweed that the property became worthless and he committed suicide. We also learned that it’s incredibly powerful and easily spread—for example, a single LEAF off of it can propagate if you for example get the leaf stuck on your shoe and then track it into someone else’s yard. This is why Al hired special guys to come cut it down and dispose of it, because you can’t just compost it or take it to the dump because it will spread. I think they burn it in some sort of EPA-approved bunker (probably not but basically). Gary developed an obsession with the idea that he himself had unknowingly spread knotweed all over the neighborhood. For a few months whenever we went on walks he would see knotweed and he’d blanch and talk for days about whether or not he should go knock on the person’s door and apologize. We developed a character for him called “Johnny Knotweed,” the shitty reprobate cousin of Johnny Appleseed. In his Johnny Knotweed form Gary steals around the region at night, clumps of noxious knotweed clinging to his elfin boots, laughing gleefully as he sows discord betwixt neighbors.
Anyway that was a long preamble to simply mention one of our big yard chores, which is we got a big pile of fancy dirt delivered by a dump truck and we covered the shorn knotweed with two feet of dirt (on top of a thick plastic tarp our new neighbor, Matt, had already weighted down over it with cinderblocks) and planted native grasses on top. No one had any hopes that this would actually resolve the knotweed situation but we did hope to tamp it down a bit. Already shoots of knotweed are thrusting heroically out of the dirt and into the air. This means that the shorn-to-the-ground stumps of knotweed are growing despite a total lack of sun and air, and growing so powerfully that they are BREAKING THROUGH A THICK PLASTIC TARP AND THEN ALSO 2 FEET OF DIRT. It’s terrifying.
And to be honest I personally miss our knotweed hedge, because it was beautiful and it hid my office from the street. Now I sit at my desk and just look out at the neighbors’ cars and it sucks. Still, one must sacrifice for the good of one’s community.
And we planted some other stuff too.
Some of the stuff in my garden is dying and I don’t know why. Everyone on the internet is cheery about it: that’s just part of learning to garden! But it feels hard to just sit and watch the nice ground cherry bush slowly wilt and die. Or like just one of my six brussel sprouts is dying. Why?? And my tomatoes aren’t flowering and I can’t find a straight answer about it. I’m also frustrated by how hard it is to figure out how much you are supposed to water. Every single gardening site on the internet says “water one inch a week.” Excuse me but WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT MEAN. Then I found a website that was like “everybody says ‘water one inch a week’ but what the fuck does that mean? Here I’ll explain it” and then their explanation was just as mystifying and unhelpful. Get a rain gauge?? What the living hell are you talking about, college boy; I just want to know, when I’m filling up my ol’ watering pail from the rain barrel, HOW MUCH WATER DO I DUMP ON AN INDIVIDUAL KALE PLANT, AND HOW OFTEN DO I DO THAT. Jesus Christ
Gary has a new conversational segment called “Rants n’ Tan’ts” based on his tendency, in normal conversations, to go on long rants that require long tangents in order to be understood. For example the other night he talked for approximately seven hours about how the shallow depth of field the cinematographer had chosen in a movie we had just watched had irritated and distracted him. This required a long tangent explaining a number of terms and the ramifications for the various choices a cinematographer could make regarding them. These moments are challenging for me because I love him and want to be interested in the things he’s interested in, and I also want to be as good a conversational partner for him as he is for me–he always listens intently and (seemingly) with pleasure to my weird monologues about, like, the role the honeycrisp plays in the whole arc of apple season, or my lengthy summaries of Stephen King novels–but honestly sometimes these monologues of his are so extremely technical and focused on such a fine-grained level of detail (Virgo stuff) and delivered in such an unchanging deliberate tone that my big-picture Leo brain just can not deal with it and I have to actively wrench my mind away from wandering, sometimes only to find that I’ve missed important details in the monologue and now have to pretend I was paying attention the whole time. Anyway we are now saying that these moments constitute a conversational “segment.” “Lets go now to Gary, with ‘Rants n’ Tan’ts!” and then it’s just Gary talking in a very patient and deliberate voice for fifteen minutes about racking focus.
As someone who is also extensively over-educated I definitely relate to the experience of having intense, all-consuming, highly-detailed interests that are difficult to explain briefly and that very few people actually want to talk to me about in the first place, so I get it. I have rants n’ tan’ts of my own, for sure. When you have spent ten years exclusively thinking about a topic it can turn even the chillest interaction into a conversational quagmire. E.g. a query as simple as “what did you think of the concert?” must be approached with extreme care and self-consciousness, lest you subject your interlocutor to a long disquisition on the incorporation of Platonic idealism into German Romanticism and how it had all kinds of interesting aesthetic ramifications that then generations of crazy people obsessed over and that obsession shaped concert culture in profound often fucked-up ways that now contemporary concert programmers are trying to rebel against but they often do so in a way that is extraordinarily problematic with regard to the relationship between aesthetics and systems of power and anyway that’s why you didn’t like the concert
In conclusion: WHO CARES
I finally got reader reports on my book back and they are really good, so to celebrate I went to Game Stop and bought a brand-new Nintendo Switch and went home and played Breath of the Wild in the basement for three hours. Never tell me I don’t know how to celebrate.
I can’t say anything about BotW that hasn’t been said already by others but…holy shit. There was already a part that made me cry–when you make it to the edge of the plateau and you finally have your paraglider and you stand looking out at the magnificent vastness of god’s creation wondering where you will end up. I cried because of the Romantic Era.
The guy at the Game Stop and I had an awkward and ultimately fruitful interaction. He’s also a person with intense detailed interests that not everyone else holds or understands, and I’m an ancient old late-adopting technophobic crone who has never played a game on anything beyond the GameCube and even on that I exclusively play Wind Waker and nothing else. I’m like Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar when he’s a pilot or something but then goes forward 70 years in the future and hops in a new spaceship to go explore the universe. For me going instantly from GameCube to Switch is like using an appliance in Europe, you’re like “I didn’t know technology had advanced to this point,” like the washing machine is both a washing machine and a dryer and it’s somehow as small as a shoebox and is housed inside of the refrigerator and it runs on good thoughts and a single drop of dish soap and it also can convert cash into bitcoin and ultimately you get confused and throw all your clothes out the window down onto the street. Anyway, he was explaining the difference between the Wii U and the Switch to me and I was nodding and like “uh huh, uh huh” but then my questions were all just like: “so I can play Zelda on this.” And he’d be like “…uh…yes” then he’d talk more about graphics and technical specs and bitrates and programming difficulties and some finer points of comparison between various controllers and I’d nod again and then be like “so what you are saying is that I can play Zelda on either of these, but this one is better.” He would always pause after one of my questions, clearly because I wasn’t really making sense to him and he was trying to understand what I was getting at. He also kept trying to tell me about other games, as part of selling me on the Switch. “So they just released a new Mario Kart” e.g. and he’d go into all the details about the superiority of that game to others and I’d be nodding patiently and then he’d be like “I can hook it up and show you if you want” and I’d just say “NO.” Full stop. Like sonny get it through your skull: I am an old nerd and I exclusively want to play Zelda games and you already sold me on this Switch ten minutes ago when you pointed out that they will probably make other Zelda games for the Switch but that the Wii U is over and there will be no more Zeldas for it. “You had me at hello”
We also went to the Apple store because my phone camera broke, and there we interacted with yet more nice young men with intense specific interests who spend their days interacting with stressed-out idiots like me who don’t even understand what most of the words related to Apple products even mean. While we were waiting, a small child hysterically playing with a Bb-8 droid lost control of it and it flew off the table and shattered on the floor and the Apple guy standing nearest me just spoke calmly into his bluetooth without batting an eye and said “we have a Bb-8 down, repeat, a Bb-8 down”
To unwind myself once summer starts I have a new tactic. I go to the library and I get a huge stack of garish female-driven and usually -authored thrillers à la Girl on the Train and I just blow through them as fast as I can, flinging each one onto the floor when I’m finished, whereupon my husband picks them up and returns them to the library for me without comment. They are all terrible but reading them is weirdly soothing. All of their plots are just about how much men hate women. There are a bunch of different lady protagonists who are affected by men who hate women in different ways. Lots of times there is a scrappy lady detective who endures sexism in the workplace and who gets obsessed with solving the crime because of her own history of abuse or something. Often at the end two women who hate each other will band together to destroy the menacing man, so the books are weirdly about sisterhood within patriarchy even though all the main characters including the women are disgusting. They’re SO bad but I get why they are a new bestselling genre, in today’s world. In addition to maybe five of these I’ve also read an Ian McEwan (the one about the judge) and this book called “Smoke” that’s kind of a steampunk fantasy about a 19th century England in which everyone’s emotions emanate from them visibly in the form of smoke, and the class system is all based on smoking, like the rich people send their kids to brutal boarding schools where they learn to rigidly control themselves so that they never smoke, whereas the lower classes smoke freely and are filthy with their own passions all the time. It was actually really good, and ended up being kind of a political screed against classical liberalism, which I enjoyed.